In a national first, three local councils will fund 59 places for Charles Sturt University to train a skilled network of leaders to aid the Mid North Coast's current and future crisis responses.
Local councils in Port Macquarie-Hastings, Kempsey and Bellingen - as part of the Mid North Coast Joint Organisation - will fund the places for selected council employees and local community members to undertake online study in two micro subjects from CSU's Graduate Certificate in Community Leadership and Resilience.
The recipients of the council-funded education will make up the Mid North Coast Community Leadership and Resilience Network. The network is the first of its kind, created by three local councils in partnership with CSU, to provide support, ideas and opportunities to build leadership capacity and develop collaborative strategies for the region's recovery.
Director of External Engagement for Charles Sturt in Port Macquarie Kate Wood Foye said CSU is thrilled to work alongside these proactive regional councils to facilitate the framework and learning underpinning the multi-location resilience network.
"The scholarships materialise a valuable opportunity for these communities to develop community leaders with vital skills to create significant change and strategies for lasting recovery in a region so deeply affected by drought, bushfire, flood and COVID-19," Ms Wood-Foye said.
"This Mid North Coast cohort will be the first of its kind enabling future leaders to collectively learn, share ideas and support each other through each subject, creating a highly skilled and supported network of individuals to initiate regional recovery with lasting economic and social impact."
Port Macquarie-Hastings Council, Kempsey Shire Council and Bellingen Shire Council will together fund 39 community scholarships and 20 council employee professional development scholarships.
The community scholarships were established to include local residents from a diverse range of backgrounds and organisations, who are already key community leaders and show a commitment to leading transformational change to enable the Mid North Coast region to recover and thrive.
"If recent events have taught us anything, it is that connectedness to others is a critical issue in building strong communities," general manager of Port Macquarie-Hastings Council Craig Swift-McNair said.
"Offering scholarships in Charles Sturt University's community leadership and resilience subjects is one way that Port Macquarie-Hastings Council can contribute to building the capacity of our community and encouraging stronger community connections.
"Participating in this course will lead to the creation of a network of community champions along the Mid North Coast that participating councils and other agencies will be able to work with as we face the future together."
General manager of Kempsey Shire Council Craig Milburn said for Kempsey resilience is not a word, it is a way of life.
"After 19 declared disaster events in 10 years, the residents of the Macleay Valley live and breathe being prepared, dealing with and recovering from events," Mr Milburn said.
"Our council is supporting these community scholarships to keep building our local capacity to deal with these events and help to ensure we keep building a better community into the future."
General manager of Bellingen Shire Council Liz Jeremy said the Mid North Coast Joint Organisation of Councils has committed to understanding each of our communities' priorities and concerns.
"Our region has weathered a range of challenges across recent times around years of drought, fires, floods and now COVID-19, which highlights an understanding of the need to work in a much more focused way around the environmental social and economic impacts Bellingen faces now and into the future," Ms Jeremy said.
"The Community Leadership and Resilience Network project is a key enabler to responding to what our communities have told us about what is important, enhancing council and community capacity, and creating a cohort with expertise in what continues to be imperatives for the ongoing wellbeing of our communities."
Members selected for the network will commence their online study with CSU on June 29.
The university will create a dedicated study group for the network and will deliver the subjects so the group can target regional priorities and create solutions for the Mid North Coast region.
To be eligible for the community scholarships, applicants must resident in the local government area for which they are applying, be able to demonstrate local community involvement, be willing to join and commit to the Mid North Coast Community Leadership and Resilience Network, and be able to dedicate time to university study.